Monthly Archives: November 2016

YOUNG FRESH FELLOWS – Extintores y Txipirones

Album: Extintores y Txipirones

Artist: Young Fresh Fellows

Label: Book

Release Date: October 21, 2016


The Upshot: The fellas cash in their work visas for studio time, and whattaya know, they kick out da jamz on a must-own rarities compilation.


 ¡Mierda santa! A collection of outtakes, rarities, and live cuts assembled to accompany the Young Fresh Fellows on their recent October tour of Spain (including a celebrated appearance at the Funtastic Dracula Carnival), Extintores y Txipirones was an instant critical hit, generating comments like this:

“Al frente Scott McCaughey, Jim Sangster, Kurt Bloch y Tad Hutchinson se subieron al escenario del Loco Club puntuales para ofrecer un concierto extraordinario, simpático y con el cual nos lo pasamos en grande con ellos presentando en nuestro país en esta gira un disco recopilatorio, con temas inéditos y demás titulado Extintores y Txipirones”, nombre que título a su gira y disco que solamente se podrá comprar en cada uno de sus conciertos.”

And this:

“Junto al ilustre y dicharachero Scott estarán Kurt Bloch (guitarra), Jim Sangster (bajo) y Tad Hutchison (batería). Como plato fuerte presentarán un nuevo disco que solamente se podrá adquirir durante los conciertos de la gira, con el curioso, llamativo y ocurrente título de “Extintores y Txipirones”, compuesto por rarezas de la banda.”

And even this:

“Celebrando sus 35 años en la carretera bajan al Sótano los Young Fresh Fellows. Desde Seattle llegan Scott McCaughey, Kurt Bloch, Jim Sangster y Theodore Hutchison. El nombre de su banda es sinónimo de resistencia de esa llama del rocknroll que se mantiene ajeno a las modas. Charlamos con ellos sobre música, txipirones y extintores, y nos regalan.”

I couldn’t have said it better! The bakers-dozen tracks here handily showcase the YFF aesthetic, from gnarly covers (a remarkably fired-up take of the Modern Lovers’ “Someone I Care About” that totally demolishes the original; the Sonics’ eternal “Have Love Will Travel”) to riotous originals (the neo-hardcore-cum-garage of “My Boyfriend’s in Killdozer,” originally part of a 1989 split single with Scruffy the Cat; a hilarious faux-metal number called “Motor Broke” that was one of five 45s in an ultra-limited edition singles box from ’91 titled Hits From the Breakup Album—the Jonathan Richman tune was also part of that box) and everything in between.

When the Fellows get revved up and rawkin’, there’s no holding them back—just check the wiggy “Lay You in the Ground” in all its hirsute, malevolent anti-glory. And 9 out of 10 pastors agree, prolonged exposure to the band’s music will have most citizens speaking in tongues. I should know; I started babbling Spanish after just 2 ½ spins of the CD.  ¡Mi madre el diablo!

DOWNLOAD: Don’t even tempt me.



ELEKTRIC VOODOO – Elektric Voodoo

Album: Elektric Voodoo

Artist: Elektric Voodoo

Label: self-released

Release Date: November 11, 2016


The Upshot: The former Grace Potter & the Nocturnals member turns up the Afro-beat heat for a remarkably diverse, agile artistic pivot.


How often do you pop in a disc, cue up an LP, or hit “play” on an internet file, and abruptly find yourself transported to an alternate universe? It’s the greatest feeling in the world, and I say that as someone who’s been opening random mail parcels since the late ‘70s; suffice to say, new releases, I’ve heard a few. Longevity never diminishes that feeling, however; it only makes one more discriminating when assessing new music. Do I even need to point out how many new records are released each week (or, for that matter, each day)?

San Diego’s Elektric Voodoo is the brainchild of one Scott Tournet, whose name you might recognize as the erstwhile guitarist for Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. Joined by Mark Boyce (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion/G-Love) on keyboards, Ty Kiernan on percussion, Matt Bozzone on drums, and Evan Lucas on bass, Tournet (who handles, in addition to guitar, vocals and keyboards) conjures up a thick, heady sound entirely apropos of the group moniker. Who knew there was voodoo being practiced in San Diego?

 But indeed, it is. This 8-songer kicks off with the infections Afro-beat of “Secrets,” a guaranteed party-starter that wonderfully marries the classic, kinetic, Fela imperative to contemporary jammers’ psychedelic aesthetics. (All respect to Kiernan here, and on many of the other tracks; Tournet himself notes at the E.V. website that Kiernanexposed me to a whole world of rhythms that I didn’t know about.”) That’s followed by the equally percussive, heady “Ball & Chain,” alive with arpeggiated riffs and jagged bursts of harmonica. Later, the ensemble demonstrates its versatility by touching down in both Prog territory (the brooding “Mercy”) and jazzier turf (the horns-laden, “The Other Side,” which also showcases Tournet’s lead axe skills), although it’s clear that Tournet’s love for world music, eastern Africa sounds in particular, is what’s driving him these days. The man’s prior, extended, foray within the contemporary jamband scene has clearly served him well, in that regard, because he immerses himself in all this with an intuitive, open-ended manner.

 It has to be a tough row to hoe when leaving a hugely successful band in order to strike out upon one’s own, as Tournet did in leaving the Nocturnals. He was definitely a key component in the group’s ascent. But with the brilliant Elektric Voodoo, this veteran rocker and musical seeker has not only recommitted himself to the cause, he’s also carved out a compelling little corner of the musical universe for himself and his new compatriots that can only expand and envelop.

DOWNLOAD: “Secrets,” “Mercy”


JASON SIMON – Familiar Haunts LP

Album: Familiar Haunts

Artist: Jason Simon

Label: Cardinal Fuzz

Release Date: October 28, 2016


The Upshot: Dead Meadow man serves up psychedelia and space music with elements of Americana worked in.


Jason Simon, the guitarist of Dead Meadow, has on his latest album, Familiar Haunts, veered away from the overt psychedelic stain he brings to his band’s records, exchanging it for a more nuanced addition to the songwriting. Imagine 16 Horsepower with its rickety, ramshackle banjo slap overlaid with Jason’s nasally voice. (As a side note, I wonder if anyone has noticed that Jason’s voice is a dead ringer for The Starling’s Chris Sheehan?)

Here, psychedelic flourishes from time to time percolate to the surface. Reexamining elements of Americana stretched over a rock canvas has been done before, and in many ways has become an unfortunate hipster badge of courage. Thankfully, on opener “The People Dance, The People Sing,” the banjo augmenting the track doesn’t overpower the tune, and instead the backwoods stomp that evolves provides a sinister, mud stained, entry point into the album. “Seven Sisters of Sleep” recalls Syd Barrett’s “Terrapin” in its slack narcotic haze. “Now I’m Telling You,” on the other hand, with its heavily distorted guitar and raga drone radiating in the background, brings the goods that we’ve come to expect from Mr. Simon; the tune’s atmospherics are a strange amalgam of Kraftwerk Autobahn era pulses and beats, and despite the hodgepodge nature of the song, it works to create a transcendental moment of dropping off the radar. “Wheels Will Spin” has a Jim Diamond-producing-White Stripes vibe to it, a cool track that expands the sonic palette that Simon pulls from.

All in all, the album’s lean 41 minutes has enough head candy to please Simon’s most ardent Dead Meadow followers, and yet still manages to chart some interesting direction for his future musical output. Seeing as there are only 250 copies that Cardinal Fuzz has pressed up, you might want to get your order in before Fred Mills gets his hands on one. (The Cardinal Fuzz site is showing, as of Thanksgiving, that only 4 copies are left. –Vinyl Freak Ed.)

DOWNLOAD: “Seven Sisters of Sleep” “The People Dance, The People Sing”  “Now I’m Telling You” “Wheels Will Spin”


MILES DAVIS QUINTET – Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5

Album: Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5

Artist: Miles Davis Quintet

Label: Columbia/Legacy

Release Date: October 21, 2016


The Upshot: Miles Davis’s tough yet humorous persona shines through on master takes, takes, and session reels. Listener are offered a front row seat to the long process of attempting a musical masterpiece.


Freedom Jazz Dance documents the Miles Davis Quintet’s studio takes, rehearsals, and talk that laid the foundation for Miles Smiles (1967) as well as later albums Nefertiti (also ’67) and Water Babies (1976). We hear Miles in his gravelly voice frequently turn to producer Teo Macero: “Let me hear that, Teo. F*ck!” It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s informative in understanding the process of making music, some of which is now considered classic.

Listeners should note that in Miles’ saying “that’s cuter than a motherfucker,” one is aural witness to “the cool.” That’s the cool that Lester Young spun from language like “you dig?” as well as general demeanor and hand gestures. Miles’ hip argot (“fire him a hamburger”) may tempt listeners to reduce the music simply to a dimension of the man’s persona, but this music is more than that. It’s full of conviction. What Miles’ Quintet is playing is American expression; it ventures beyond the cool into traditional tale telling with “The Gingerbread Boy,” and black history with “Nefertiti.” A track like “Orbits” is even harder to pin down, but it too is more than simply cool. Miles is informing the American soul – our very existence – through American style playing, as opposed to, for example, producing an impressionistic rendition of the Nefertiti as Debussy might have done.

Jokes notwithstanding, this quintet is a serious band, as were all of Miles’ groups. Here the lineup is Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, and Wayne Shorter. To be sure, it was a different time, and the times have changed. Much of today’s music draws inspiration from more recent antecedents. Arguably Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5 – even as a collection of material originally deemed unsuitable for release – is superior to much of what is new.

DOWNLOAD: “Fall – Master Take,” “Nefertiti – Master Take,” “Orbits – Master Take”


GREEN PAJAMAS- To the End of the Sea

Album: To the End of the Sea

Artist: Green Pajamas

Label: Green Monkey

Release Date: September 16, 2016


The Upshot: A welcome return to a time when adventure and experimentation went well beyond the mindless gimmickry and superfluous trappings found in today’s more pretentious pop.


Purveyors of their own take on psychedelia, The Green Pajamas have been plying their singular style for the better part of the past 30 years. Having carved something of a legendary stature in their native Seattle, the band remains a cult favorite as far as the world at large is concerned, having been denied the wider recognition their consistent craft ought to have brought by now. Nevertheless, each new album provides a welcome return for their fans and followers, and if To the End of the Sea seems slightly more subdued than some of their earlier entrees, it’s no less intriguing or engaging either.

Made up mostly of a kind of cosmic concoction, To the End of the Sea is all but immersed in atmospheric ambiance, casting a haunting and harrowing aura that wholly informs such songs such as “Will the Ships Go Down,” “Ten Million Light Years Away,” “Sea of Secrets” and “A Mouth Full of Honey.” The druggy demeanor may bring back hazy memories of late nights in the college dorm, with the waft of incense and day-glo designs informing the mood and the music, but given the fact that this is 2016 and responsibility rules, its tone becomes more suggestive of escapist entertainment. That’s much needed in this post-election era, and that gives the soothing sounds of “Sea of Secrets,” “All of the Starry Sky,” “Anyone But Me,” and “Si Sigues La Luna (If You Follow the Moon)” an assured aura of meditation and mystique. What’s more, an occasional Beatle-esque design allows a song like “When Juliet Smiles” to cast a nostalgic note, all the more reason to celebrate The Green Pajamas’ celestial stance and retro revisionism.

If To The End of the Sea appears to be an echo of another age, it’s also a welcome return to a time when adventure and experimentation went well beyond the mindless gimmickry and superfluous trappings found in today’s more pretentious pop. This is ambition of another kind, the supple effect of a more mesmerizing kind of music.

DOWNLOAD: “Sea of Secrets,” “All of the Starry Sky,” “Anyone But Me”

ANDREW CYRILLE QUARTET – The Declaration of Musical Independence

Album: The Declaration of Musical Independence

Artist: Andrew Cyrille Quartet

Label: ECM

Release Date: September 23, 2016


The Upshot: Veteran jazz drummer understands that space is the place.


Drummer Andrew Cyrille’s career stretches back to the early ‘60s and his work with vibraphonist Walt Dickerson and sax legend Coleman Hawkins, and he’s been an important part of landmark albums by the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, Charlie Haden, Marion Brown and, most prolifically, free jazz giant Cecil Taylor. For The Declaration of Musical Independence, his fourteenth LP as a leader, Cyrille assembles a team of veterans, including guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Ben Street and peer Richard Teitelbaum on keyboards, for a program of compositions that take advantage of open space. With arrangements that avoid clutter and sheets of sound (ironic, given that the album opens with John Coltrane’s “Coltrane Time”), the air between the notes on Street’s “Say” and Frisell’s “Kaddish” carries as much weight as the notes themselves. Teitlebaum’s “Herky Jerky” and Frisell’s “Song For Andrew No.1” get busy with rhythm and more complicated lines, but even they leave room to breathe.

The approach reaches its zenith on collective improvisations like “Manfred” and “Sanctuary,” where Cyrille’s insistent kit work pushes his musicians briskly through the wide open spaces like a drill sergeant whipping his charges forward. ECM as a label is known for this kind of airy production, but few musicians make as good a use of its space as does Cyrille on The Declaration of Musical Independence.

DOWNLOAD: “Sanctuary,” “Say,” “Song For Andrew No. 1”

MATT HIRES – American Wilderness

Album: American Wilderness

Artist: Matt Hires

Label: Rock Ridge Music

Release Date: October 14, 2016


The Upshot: Nashville-by-way-of-Tampa songwriter seamlessly moves between pop, rock, and Americana.


With his third album, American Wilderness, Matt Hires has taken the promise he made with his first two efforts and delivered an amazingly satisfying collection of songs, easily his most powerful to date.

Straddling the camps of pop, rock and Americana, Hires seamlessly moves in and out of genres, which is part of the reason American Wilderness is so easy to get into on the first listen.

The move from Tampa to Nashville before the start of this record has clearly found Hires in a more introspective place. Though musical the album is tight and Hires voice is the strongest it’s ever been, lyrically is where the album really proves itself. Hires obvious struggle with faith and religion can be heard all over the record (like on the tremendous “Holy War,” with lines like “I got the Bible Belt billboard blues again,” and the deeply personal “Glory Bound”). Hires, along with folks like Parker Millsap and John Fullbright, and part of a fascinating group of talented songwriters that aren’t afraid to tap into deeply personal struggles to make relatable songs.

That’s not to say the album is all heavy, there are moments of great levity scattered throughout, like on the addictive “You Are What You Are.” For some. it could have just been a change of scenery, but for Hires, the move to Nashville seems to have unlocked a massive reserve of great songs.

DOWNLOAD: “Holy War,” “Glory Bound” and “You Are What You Are”

BITORI —Legend Of Funaná: The Forbidden Music of The Cape Verde Islands

Album: Legend Of Funaná

Artist: Bitori

Label: Analog Africa

Release Date: September 23, 2016


The Upshot: A joyous onslaught of accordion, metallic rhythms and call and response singing.


“Bitori Nha Bibina” is a joyous onslaught of accordion, metallic rhythms and call and response singing, led at the time of its 1997 recording by a 59-year-old man who had struggled awfully hard to be there. Bitori, in real life Victor Tavares, had made the 2300 plus mile trip from his native Cabo Verde to Sao Tome and Principe some 40 years before, seeking to earn enough money to buy the accordion he plays with such glee. Two years to buy the instrument, two more months to bring it home, Bitori accepted it all in order to learn the rural traditional style known as Funaná. At first he worked in the underground since the music was banned by colonial government, later, after independence in 1975, as celebration of Cabo Verde’s heritage, a blend of Portuguese and African influences.

his collection of songs, which features Bitori on accordion, the singer Chando Gracioso, Grace Evora on drums and Danilio Tavares on bass, catches him in exuberant form, layering short, repetitive riffs over swaying syncopations of drum, kit, cowbell and scratched and shaken percussion. The music is clearly meant for celebration, and you can hardly resist its call to sway and shimmy, yet there’s something melancholy, too, in the hoarse, emotive vocals and the slippery thrum of accordion. It’s an escape hatch, maybe, from the kind of world where two years hard labor might be seen as a fair trade for the axe that feeds your art, and where, famous many years later, you tour the world in your 70s, playing the scrappy songs of youth to people who have never been to your island nor will.

DOWNLOAD: “Bitori Nha Bibina


ALLEN CLAPP – Six Seasons EP

Album: Six Seasons EP

Artist: Allen Clapp

Label: Mystery Lawn Music/Minty Fresh

Release Date: November 11, 2016  /


The Upshot: Orange Peels dude offers up melodies and jangles galore on a six-song mini-album.


Those of us who are longtime fans of this California native know that we’re lucky. Lucky because when he’s not releasing records by his band, the Orange Peels, then he’ll hole up in his home studio and release a solo record like he’s done here. Allen has added two more seasons to the original four, so yeah, only six songs here but man, Six Seasons is a doozie.

It’s a varied and beautiful record with  Clapp playing (and singing ) everything on here. Song #1, “Moss Falls Like Rain” is classic Clapp, all jangly guitars, soaring vocals and lovely melodic keyboards while “Friend Collector” seems a bit more downtrodden, more minor key  and even adding in some bitterness lyrically (“I would do anything to go back to the way it was” and “You are the friend collector, you collected all of my friends”).  Later on “The Weight of Fallen Leaves” is another perfect snapshot of the California that Clapp loves to write about (he’s now up in the Santa Cruz mountains after years of being in the Bay Area).  The instrumentals, “Seasons 5 & 6 (parts I and II)  offer up  rebirth (and sound like some lost, classic 60’s band) and “New Again” is the most rockin’ one on here with slappy drums and more of that piano.

Experts agree, you can never go wrong with an Allen Clapp record!

DOWNLOAD: “Moss Falls Like Rain,” “Friend Collector,” “The Weight of Fallen Leaves”




The Speed of Sound, by Thomas Dolby

Title: The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers between Music and Technology

Author: Thomas Dolby

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: November 11, 2016


The Upshot: The blinded with science guy recounts his multi-varied career, including an extended stint at the proverbial tech wizard, fittingly enough.


Thomas Dolby…who knew? Upon reading his new memoir I realized that Dolby has led one hell of a life. Oh sure, we all know him from his early ‘80s new wave days and “She Blinded Me with Science” (I bought the 12” in ’82, and back then it wasn’t unusual to hear new wave geeks, like me, walk down the street and randomly yell out the word “Science!”). He was a hero for all geeks the world over (his next single, “Hyperactive”, too). In addition to his own work I hadn’t realized that Dolby also worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell (not a good experience for him), David Bowie, George Clinton and plenty of others (Lene Lovich, Prefab Sprout, etc.).

After tiring of the music industry—and getting screwed over as well—Dolby up and moved to first Los Angeles and then the Bay Area and started up Beatnik Inc. which helped add audio to websites, and, later, cell phones. At Beatnik, Dolby had his ups and downs (mostly downs, from his perspective) but in the end made good, thanks to the world of ringtones (and Nokia). Dolby and his family then had had enough of California and moved back to England in the mid ‘00s, but alas, America was still calling. As of 2014 Dolby is now a professor at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, adding yet another feather in his already full cap.

The Speed of Sound is told in a real off-the-cuff style and is very entertaining and highly readable —that Michael Jackson story was superb!. Judging from his words, it seems like Dolby took his wins almost as relaxed as he took his losses. Despite really trying to be a Bay Area tech wizard, he realized that he’s a musician through and through, and in the end he went back to that first love. It’s all told from the perspective of a guy who I’d enjoy sitting down with and chatting over lunch sometime.